- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2006

LONDON — Syd Barrett, the troubled Pink Floyd co-founder who spent his last years in reclusive anonymity, has died, the band said yesterday. He was 60.

A spokeswoman for the band said Mr. Barrett died several days ago, but she did not disclose the cause of death. Mr. Barrett had suffered from diabetes for years.

The surviving members of Pink Floyd — David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright — said they were “very upset and sad to learn of Syd Barrett’s death.”

“Syd was the guiding light of the early band lineup and leaves a legacy which continues to inspire,” they said in a statement.

Born Roger Keith Barrett, he co-founded Pink Floyd in 1965 with Mr. Waters, Mr. Mason and Mr. Wright and wrote many of the band’s early songs. The group’s jazz-infused rock and drug-laced multimedia “happenings” made them darlings of the London psychedelic scene. The 1967 album “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” — largely written by Mr. Barrett, who also played guitar — was a commercial and critical hit.

However, Mr. Barrett suffered from mental instability, exacerbated by his use of LSD. His behavior grew increasingly erratic, and he left the group in 1968 — five years before the release of Pink Floyd’s most popular album, “Dark Side of the Moon” — to be replaced by Mr. Gilmour.

“He took drugs by the shovelful,” Mr. Gilmour once said.

Mr. Barrett released two solo albums — “The Madcap Laughs” and “Barrett” — but soon withdrew from the music business. An album of previously unreleased material, “Opel,” was issued in 1988.

In recent years, Mr. Barrett reverted to his real name and spent much of the rest of his life living quietly in his hometown of Cambridge, England. Moving into his mother’s suburban house, he passed the time painting and tending the garden. His former band mates made sure Mr. Barrett continued to receive royalties from his work with Pink Floyd.

He was a familiar figure to neighbors, often seen cycling or walking to the corner store, but he rarely spoke to the fans and journalists who sought him out over the years.

“I can’t tell you how sad I feel,” rock legend David Bowie told Agence France-Presse. “Syd was a major inspiration for me. He was so charismatic and such a startlingly original songwriter. … His impact on my thinking was enormous. A major regret is that I never got to know him. A diamond indeed.”

Despite his brief career, Mr. Barrett’s fragile, wistful songs influenced many musicians, from Mr. Bowie — who covered the Barrett track “See Emily Play” — to the other members of Pink Floyd, who recorded the album “Wish You Were Here” as a tribute to their troubled band mate.

It contained the song “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” — “Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.” The band also dwelt on themes of mental illness on the albums “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall.”

The band spokeswoman said a small private funeral will be held.

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